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Obese heart surgery patients require significantly more ICU resources

After heart surgery, obese patients tend to require additional intensive care unit (ICU) services and longer recovery times when compared to non-obese patients. This results in more expensive, more labor-intensive care, according to a study published online in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

“Obesity is a growing problem for society that has reached epidemic proportions,” said lead author Brandon R. Rosvall, BSc, of Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick in Canada. “In our study, we saw that as patients became more obese, the hospital resources required to care for them after heart surgery also increased.”

Rosvall, along with senior author Ansar Hassan, MD and other colleagues, used data from the New Brunswick Heart Centre Cardiac Surgery Database to identify patients who underwent cardiac surgery at the New Brunswick Heart Centre between January 2006 and December 2013. The authors also examined data specific to the patients’ ICU stays, which were obtained from logbooks and individual charts.

Of the 5,365 patients included in the final analysis, 1,948 (36%) were classified as obese. The patients were grouped into the following weight categories, as defined by the World Health Organization: Obese Class I (BMI 30.00-34.99), n=1,363 (25%); Obese Class II (BMI 35.00-39.99), n=441 (8%); and Obese Class III (BMI greater than 40.00), n=144 (3%). Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on weight in relation to height. In general, the higher the BMI number, the more body fat a person has.

The study showed that following surgery, patients with higher levels of obesity were four times more likely to require extra time in the ICU, three times more likely to need additional time on mechanical ventilation, and three times more likely to be readmitted to the ICU. Researchers also learned that these patients experienced longer overall hospital lengths of stay and discharges with home care.